The Importance Of First Aid In The Workplace: 5 Ways To Ensure Effective First Aid Arrangements By High Speed Training

Suitable and sufficient first aid arrangements are vital for every business. Having these means that if anyone suffers an injury or sudden ill health, they can be attended to immediately and effectively, and the emergency services can be called if needed. 

They also ensure the business meets its legal requirements. Under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, employers must provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel. This applies to all workplaces, including those with fewer than five employees and the self-employed.

It’s therefore crucial for employers and others in charge of first aid to know what the law requires, how to identify first aid needs, and ensure arrangements are effective. Liz Burton-Hughes, Health and Safety Learning Designer at High Speed Training outlines five important considerations for effective first aid arrangements within businesses:   

Businesses must meet minimum first aid provisions

Minimum first aid provisions include a suitably stocked first aid kit, an appointed person to take charge of the first aid arrangements, and providing the necessary information to employees.

If a first aid needs assessment (discussed below) shows that a workplace has higher level hazards or a large number of employees on site (more than 25), then further measures are required. Where 25 or more people are employed, even in low hazard environments, at least one qualified first aider should be provided. Holiday and sickness cover should be considered – the needs assessment will identify if more personnel are necessary. Note that qualified first aiders are not required by default, and they are not the same as an appointed person, though the appointed person may also be a qualified first aider.

A first aid needs assessment must be carried out

Beyond the minimum provisions, the level of first aid cover and specific arrangements required can vary depending on the type of business and the work activities it carries out. This means more may be needed in addition to the minimum requirements.

A first aid needs assessment will enable the employer, or employee to whom they’ve delegated the responsibility, to identify what arrangements and cover are necessary. It should consider the nature of the work carried out, workplace hazards and risks, the size of the business, and any history of accidents.

Qualified first aiders must receive face to face training

Qualified first aiders are not a default requirement, but where a qualification is identified as necessary, then this individual must receive formal face to face first aid training. This must be renewed every three years face to face, but in between the three-year period it can be refreshed through online courses.

Face to face training ensures that they are fully prepared to provide first aid, as it involves going through a range of key topics and practising various aspects. For example, learning how to deliver rescue breaths during CPR is an important aspect of face-to-face training, as it is not recommended that anyone does this unless they have practised it in training.

The contents of a first aid kit are determined by the needs assessment

There is no legally-required contents list for a first aid kit, though the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a suggested minimum list for businesses with low-risk work activities. They also advise British Standard (BS) 8599-compliant kits for those looking to buy a pre-prepared one. Kits don’t have to meet this standard by law, but those that do contain a wide range of items that may be needed by workplaces.

The business’s first aid needs assessment will help to identify anything required in addition to the minimum recommendations or a BS 8599-compliant kit.

Identify what type of first aid training is needed

The type of face to face first aid training that qualified first aiders should receive depends on various factors.

The risk assessment should consider what level of hazards are associated with the work activities and the number of employees they have:

  • Low-hazard (e.g. offices, shops, and libraries).

    • 25-50 employees – Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW).

    • More than 50 employees – First Aid at Work (FAW).

  • Higher level hazards (e.g. engineering and assembly work, food processing, and working with dangerous machinery).

    • 5-50 employees – Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) or First Aid at Work (FAW), depending on the injuries that might occur as identified in the risk assessment.

    • More than 50 employees – First Aid at Work (FAW).

If the first aid needs assessment for a small, low risk business identifies that a qualified first aider isn’t necessary, it may be sufficient for a member of staff to receive basic Workplace First Aid training that isn’t face to face (such as via an online course). Those who work with children and need to be a qualified first aider must take face to face Paediatric First Aid training.

Finally, an important closing note is that no matter what first aid arrangements are in place, in many circumstances the first aider alone won’t be able to deal with the issue, and so the emergency services may need to be called. This means advice can be sought and an ambulance can be sent. Those who have first aid responsibilities must understand the importance of taking this action, to ensure casualties receive the aid they need.

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